New Audi Q6 E-tron electric SUV concept heading to Frankfurt

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It’s been rumoured and teased, but now images of a new Audi SUV concept have emerged ahead of its debut at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show. The concept, dubbed the C-BEV, serves as a preview for the forthcoming Q6 all-electric production model, which we won’t see until 2018.

Although the images, from our German sister publication Auto Bild, are digital renderings, they’re said to come from an official source at the VW-Group firm. They reveal a dynamic SUV design that’s a significant departure from the current Q5 and Q7, and showcases clear influence from new design boss Marc Lichte.

The sleek profile and chiselled styling shows the electric Q6’s intention to become a rival for the Tesla Model X, as well as conventionally-fuelled rivals such as the BMW X6 and Mercedes GLE Coupe. 

Audi has also revealed it will debut a new Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) lighting technology on the concept. The lights, which are continuously variable and require no reflectors or guides, will eventually be used in Audi’s production models across the range.

What can we expect from the Q6?

Audi CEO Rupert Stadler has previously opened up about the zero-emissions SUV, believed to be badged Q6, claiming it will be “sexy”, “packed with utility” and “sporty.” He also confirmed it will arrive by 2018 – to coincide with big developments in the charging infrastructure. 

The model, which was confirmed for production, along with an official sketch, at Audi’s annual press conference last month, will take on the Tesla Model X and offer a range of over 300 miles between charges. “When it comes to a battery electric vehicle it was very clear for us, a range of 500km is a must,” said Stadler, talking exclusively to Auto Express at the Shanghai Motor Show.

Audi plotting Tesla rivals

“Some years ago SUVs were disliked and seen as not fuel efficient, we have proved through lightweight technology and electric drive trains that they can be highly efficient,” he added. “Believe me, the premium customer is prepared to pay a little bit more to say I’m doing everything well for the environment.”

“Now with our engineers and our battery-cell suppliers we are at a stage where we can say, yes, this is feasible and we believe that with the ongoing investments in terms of infrastructure development we think that 2018-2019 is the right time to come up with such a car. It will look nice, it will have sufficient range and we think the infrastructure will be sufficient in terms of supercharging.”

Stadler pointed to China as an example of sweeping changes to the charging infrastructure, essential if the market for electric cars is to thrive: “What we are seeing in China at the moment is there are some government decisions that will put superchargers every 50km on 16,000 to 17,000km of highways. If this happens and this will happen then it could be an accelerator and create some good momentum. Hopefully the Europeans will follow.” 

Sitting above the Q6 and the Q7 in the range, Stadler also confirmed a range-topping Q8 is in development: “Yes there will be something above [the Q7] and it will be more expensive than the Q7.” When we used the new £150,000 Range Rover SVAutobigraphy as a benchmark for how upmarket the Q8 could go, he said it will “easily” take the fight to that car. 

Not all his plans involve SUVs, though. As showcased by swooping roofline of the Prologue Allroad concept in Shanghai, a CLS Shooting Brake rival could be on the cards. “Normally concept cars are an exaggeration, but nevertheless you want to get feedback and a taste for whether this type of car is on people’s buying lists or not. Why shouldn’t the station wagon not get more sporty? So let’s wait and see, it was a very good exercise.”

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